Garden memories have staying, sharing power

This corner of the garden offers a vignette of flowers and birdhouses. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Spring Valley Tribune

“One of the things I love most about my garden is that people share…the very first plants I got were six hostas from Debi Neville, and I got lilies and ferns from Sharon Jahn, and Angie Zeimetz shared a lot of her spring wildflowers,” stated Caroline Groten, pointing out the patches of flora that line her woodside garden beds at her Oak Hill Drive home outside of Spring Valley.

The garden of the Indiana native and farm girl is part of this year’s first-ever 2018 Fillmore County Master Gardeners’ “Quilt in the Garden” tour taking place this Saturday, June 16, in at least half a dozen or more gardens across the west side of the county.

“This is a 30-year project.  This was woods…complete and utter wilderness, thicket.  My husband’s father built this house, and all the way back to the fence, there was thicket and bramble,” said Groten. “This truly has been blood, sweat and tears, a labor of love.  For the most part, it’s shady.  The majority of my stuff is shade flowers because we only get a little late afternoon sun.” 

In spite of the wooded yard that she and her husband, Dallas, inherited with their home, Caroline has managed to farm the soil quite well, coaxing hostas of all varieties to reach toward the sun and thrive. 

“I have lots of hostas — like my new variety, ‘Empress Wu,’ which is supposed to get to be five feet by five feet, some astilbe, bergena – which is one of the first things to bloom and has a single pink stem, some heirloom irises from my childhood farm in Indiana, some peonies from my mom and my mother-in-law, some annuals that I put in for color because we do get some nice morning sun,” she outlined.

She pointed out the tamarack tree that she planted in the side garden because it reminds her of Ely, Minnesota, an “up North” favorite destination, the yellow peony she’s waiting to see bloom for the first time, and the little fairy garden that her granddaughter, Eden, has hidden at the base of a tree.  The fire pit in the corner of the yard offers a gathering place for her family when they come together in the summertime, and an occasional unexpected zinnia brightens nooks in the brambles. 

“This garden is kid-friendly…my grandkids love the pavers, trying to stay on them as they hop down the garden, and there’s Eden’s fairy garden, too,” said Groten. “I remember digging in the dirt as a kid.  I grew up as a farm girl in Indiana, and I think that’s where I got my love of being outside digging in the dirt.  I credit my mom, who always had beautiful flowers.  Even at 93, she still loves flowers and wants to be outside.  Clematis are actually my favorite flowers.” 


Groten, describing herself as a rather new member of the Spring Valley Garden Club, related that few of the items in her garden are purchased, and after 30 years “it’s pretty special to remember where my plants came from.  This is very therapeutic for me.  It’s also a family affair, because Dallas does a lot of the digging holes, our daughter helps pull weeds, and our grandchildren help plant.  It takes a village to grow a garden.”

Details about the garden tour

The University of Minnesota Fillmore County Master Gardeners’ garden tour is slated for this Saturday, June 16, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

The self-guided tour taking place in Spring Valley, Wykoff and Ostrander gardens will be held rain or shine, and tickets are $15 in advance or $18 the day of the tour.  Tickets will be sold at retail outlets in area communities and by contacting Shelly Skindelien at 507-346-7112 or by e-mail at  All proceeds will benefit Master Gardener projects in Fillmore County. 

For more tour details, contact Skindelien or log onto the Fillmore County Master Gardeners Facebook page at